Helsinki is full of small gems for short getaways on foot or by bike. One of them is a walk or a bicycle route along Vantaanjoki river that takes you from the oldest of Helsinki to the newest one. Along the way there is plenty; fast rapid and a calm riverside, fields and urban gardening sites, and silence of the woods.
Helsinki was established already in 1550 by the Vanhankaupunginkoski rapid, where the Vantaanjoki (river Vantaa) meets the sea. The centre has later moved to where it is today, but the area still carries its historical charm in the middle of the new residential areas growing on both sides of the river and the Arabianranta arts and design district. From the last stop of the trams 6 and 8, there is only a stone’s throw to the path that takes you along the bayside to the pedestrian bridge nearby the Vanhankaupunginkoski rapid. On a lazy day, the time goes by watching the rapid, the beautiful bay view and locals trying their luck fishing. A stroll along the wooden path takes you to Lammassaari through a small jungle of sea reed. A small island with tiny summer cottages during the summer season is a peaceful hideaway and walkabout during autumn and winter.
On a more active day, take a bike or put your best walking shoes on and save some time. From the rapid, a pedestrian path takes you north towards the direction of Vantaa and Kerava. The path goes on most parts on both side of the river, with small detours to the residential areas of Käpylä, Veräjälaakso and Tapaninvainio among others.
The next pit stop along the path from the Vanhakaupunki is Pikkukoski, a small public beach hiding within Veräjälaakso residential blocks, resting in a small, quiet valley by the Pirunkallio (‘devil’s rock’). In the summer time, Pikkukoski (‘small rapid’) is a small public beach to swim in the Vantaanjoki river. It gathers local residents to picnic, swim, rest in the sun, play basketball or just stop, enjoy and stretch your legs for a while. The Pirunkallio cliffs by the river create an illusion of being much further away in the woods than you actually are. The cranes of the very new Viikinmäki residential area in the background do however remind you of the rapidly growing Helsinki around us.
In the winter time, Pikkukoski transforms into a small, hidden winter activity corner. The steep Pirunkallio cliff offers a rare opportunity in Helsinki to try out ice climbing, if the winter conditions are favourable in the Helsinki latitude for the ice to form – and stay for few months. Pikkukoski offers also an opportunity to try the winter swimming, if you are brave enough.
The pump keeps the hole in the river open throughout the year and dipping into the icy water is easy thanks to the path and stairs installed for the winter swimmers. The small change cubicle on the beach gives a little shelter for changing clothes. If you don’t dare to try the icy bath with all the health benefits, it is a funny marriage to watch: few evenings a week the climbers in their full gore-tex gear and winter swimmers only in their bathing suits share happily the same small lot. During the snowy season, ski tracks are also available in the area.
Continuing towards upstream, the forest view changes to the fields and parks of Tapaninvainio and Tuomarinkylän Kartano Mansion. The path takes you through the area where urban gardeners nurture their small lots in the summer time. You can also hire canoes in the area for further exploration of the river.
The old farm and mansion Tuomarinkylän Kartano mansion and farm area makes a nice stop as it is in the middle of the oldest park in Helsinki. It also offers a place for a lunch or coffee if you forgot to take lunch with you. Depending how much time you have, you can continue towards Vantaa, even Kerava along the river side, but the bridges across the river make it easy to decide to change direction.
Overall, the route along the river is a nice ride, with bike you can explore more during the day. As the path goes along the riverside, it is mostly an easy ride, too. Map or GPS is a nice companion if you are not familiar with the neighbourhood, as the route does take you every now and then off the riverside.
How to get there:
Take a tram to the final stop of 6 or 8 to Arabianranta, and start the walk along the seaside of Arabianranta. Buses 68 and 71 take you directly to the rapid, in the end of Hämeentie. Local trains to Oulunkylä take you directly close to Pikkukoski. There are also several buses directly to Tuomarinkylän kartano direction.
Text: Siru Nori
Photos: Antti Huttunen